Whisenhunt: Cardinals respect rival 49ers

Whisenhunt: Cardinals respect rival 49ers
October 24, 2012, 6:01 pm
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Coach Ken Whisenhunt would not go so far as to say the 49ers are the Arizona Cardinals' biggest rivals. But it's pretty clear this is not just another game in the desert."I certainly cannot speak for the whole team, but I think one of the things I noticed when I got here (in 2007), there seemed to be strong rivalry with the 49ers," Whisenhunt said Wednesday morning in a conference call with Bay Area reporters."We played a number of games through the years that have come down to the last minute. Even my first game as a head coach was a Monday night game there in San Francisco, which came to the last minute. We've had a number of those."The division-leading 49ers (5-2) face the Cardinals (4-3) on Monday night in their first meeting of the season.
Beginning in 2009, the 49ers won five consecutive meetings against the Cardinals. That streak ended in December when the 49ers sustained one of their three regular-season losses to the Cardinals.Arizona defensive end Calais Campbell made no secret of his dislike for the 49ers on Tuesday, while speaking on SiriusXM NFL Radio with hosts Tim Ryan and Pat Kirwan."I really felt like I could have had four sacks last week (against Minnesota) and I had zero," Campbell said. "So I got to make up for that this week especially going against the 49ers, who I really hate with a passion."I can't wait to go out there and stick it to them. Alex Smith, I've gotten down a few times so I know he's thinking about me a little bit. So I can't wait to get out there."Whisenhunt said there is no doubt that Cardinals consider the 49ers a rival. He downplayed the whole notion of "bulletin-board material," saying the rivalry is built from respect."I think it's grown over the years, and obviously San Francisco is a very good football team right now," Whisenhunt said. "Our players want to win, want to beat them. From our perspective, certainly there's a rivalry there."We have a lot of respect for the 49ers. I think that goes throughout our whole team. and that's part of the reason we're excited to have an opportunity to play them because we respect them and know they're a good football team."Here are some other notes from Whisenhunt's conference call:--The Cardinals rank seventh in the NFL in total defense. Whisenhunt credits continuity with the improvement."Our players now have played in this system for a little bit of time, so they understand the adjustments, they understand how they're supposed to fit in the gaps most of the time," he said.--The NFC West has turned into, perhaps, the toughest, most physical division in football. Each team has a defense that ranks in the top-10 in the NFL. The 49ers rank first, while Seattle is sixth, Cardinals seventh and Rams are 10th."We haven't played the 49ers yet, but from what I've seen on tape and what I know from having played against them, they certainly fall into that category," Whisenhunt said. "And both Seattle and St. Louis, this year fall into that category. All the teams in the NFC West have a defense that's strong and very physical. I think think that's a great quality for our division to show to the rest of the league."I know it'll be a physical game Monday night. It always is when we play the 49ers. It seems lately, it doesn't matter who you play in our division, it's always a very physical game. There's nothing wrong with that."--Whisenhunt declined to comment on the topic of the physical play of the Seattle cornerbacks, an issue that 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh addressed last week. Harbaugh has asked the NFL for an explanation why the Seahawks' defensive backs do not get called for illegal contact after the 5-yard legal zone.--The Cardinals have not done a good job of protecting their quarterbacks. Kevin Kolb is not expected to play Monday night due to a ribs injury. So John Skelton will be back under center. The Cardinals have surrendered an NFL-high 35 sacks."We've given up a lot, that's for sure," Whisenhunt said. "It's hard when you you give up that many sacks. We're up and down. We play better for a little while and then we'll have some breakdowns. I feel like we're improving slowly. It's going to be very important that we play our best game yet as an offensive line this coming game because we know how good the front seven is for this 49ers defense."--Skelton entered early in the Dec. 11 game in Arizona last season in the Cardinals 21-19 victory. Skelton completed 19 of 28 passes for 282 yards with three touchdowns. When asked if that was his best game, Whisenhunt point out the negatives."Well, aside from the fumble and two interceptions, he played well," Whisenhunt said. "If we don't turn the ball over, it would've been a good game for him. John's done a lot of good things for us. But he's got to understand how important it is at that position not to make those mistakes, especially going against a team like this. You can't do that. So our focus is on trying to sure we don't make those kinds of mistakes in a game like this."--Former 49ers lineman Adam Snyder, who starts at right guard, exited last week's game with a thigh contusion. His status is uncertain for Monday night. Although Snyder ranks as the least-productive guard in the league, according to the rating system of Pro Football Focus, Whisenhunt said Synder has "done a good job for us."--Whisenhunt, who seemed unaware that 49ers tight end Vernon Davis did not catch a pass last week, said he's sure the 49ers will try to get the ball to their tight end on Monday night."It seems to me they're clicking pretty good in San Francisco," he said. "So I'm sure they'll have a good plan."